Policy on Equal Opportunity and Workplace Conduct

Office of the Secretary
9/14/2016

The Department of the Interior is entrusted with a vast and unique mission that gives each of us the opportunity to do meaningful work for the benefit of all Americans.  You continue to inspire me with your commitment, enthusiasm, and dedication to the important work of the Department.

As I have noted before, the honor of serving our country as Federal employees carries with it important responsibilities, including the obligation to perform our duties with integrity and to the highest standards of conduct.  The vast majority of the Department’s 70,000 employees work hard, play by the rules and take these responsibilities seriously.  There have, however, been recent examples of lapses in judgment and misconduct that reflect poorly on the Department as a whole.

I am dedicated to promoting a workplace that provides equal opportunities for all and is free of discrimination, harassment, and retaliation. As follow up to my earlier message of June 15 concerning promoting an ethical culture at the Department of the Interior, this document sets forth the Department’s Policy on Equal Opportunity and Workplace Conduct, and updates you on efforts to ensure compliance by employees and supervisors.

The Department will not tolerate any type of discrimination, harassment, or retaliation. The Department will not allow for discrimination or harassment on the bases of race, color, national origin, religion, sex (including pregnancy and gender identity), age, marital and parental status, disability, sexual orientation, or genetic information. All employees have a responsibility to carry out the Department’s policy on equal opportunity and create a work environment that a reasonable person would not consider to be intimidating, hostile, or offensive. Let me be clear – this means:

  • Respecting your co-workers and members of the public;
  • Reporting ethical violations and misconduct; and,
  • Obeying all rules governing the workplace and complying with ethical responsibilities.

The Department takes seriously allegations of harassment and all investigations into such allegations will be prompt, thorough, impartial, and fair while protecting individual’s confidentiality to the maximum extent possible.

The Department will not tolerate reprisal or retaliation against employees who report discrimination or harassment or who make whistleblower disclosures. Federal law expressly prohibits retaliation, and it runs counter to the culture of compliance and standards of conduct expected of the Department and all employees.             

The Department is strengthening its policies. To support the Department in efforts to assess and strengthen policies and procedures, I tasked a working group chaired by the Solicitor and Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for Policy, Management and Budget with developing, implementing, and coordinating a number of initiatives across the Department’s bureaus and offices. These initiatives include:

  • Conducting a survey this fall to assess the prevalence of harassment within the Department and identify the resources that our employees need to effectively address workforce issues. I encourage and expect everyone to participate.  
  • Providing a new contracting mechanism for independent investigative services from an outside entity to ensure investigations into allegations of harassment are prompt, thorough, impartial, and consistent. This new contracting mechanism would allow bureaus and offices to supplement their existing capabilities and is expected to be available in October 2016.
  • Developing mandatory in-person training for all managers on the prevention of harassment in the workplace, the roles and responsibilities of managers when an allegation of harassment occurs, and how to create an organizational culture that prevents such actions. The National Park Service will pilot this training.

To ensure consistency and accessibility of policies, procedures, and practices, the Department will share more information on these and other initiatives in the coming weeks and months, including information on additional resources to support employees and managers.

Following my earlier message on promoting an ethical culture at the Department, we expect to see an increase in matters reported. It is important we shine a light on these issues so they can be addressed appropriately. Any employee or manager with a question or concern, or who believes they witnessed or experienced harassment, discrimination, or unethical behavior, should, without fear of reprisal or retaliation, seek immediate guidance or assistance from a management official, your servicing Equal Employment Opportunity Office, Human Resources Office, the CORE Plus Program/Ombuds, the Inspector General, and/or the Department’s Ethics Office.

The Policy on Equal Opportunity and Workplace Conduct extends to Department programs as well as programs receiving financial assistance from the Department. The Department will strictly enforce all equal opportunity, civil rights, and whistleblower protection laws throughout all bureaus, offices, and Department programs. 

While the Department is working to ensure consistency and accessibility of its policies throughout the organization, it is also the responsibility of managers to implement these policies and procedures. I expect each manager and supervisor to ensure equal opportunity for all of our employees and a Department free of discrimination, harassment, and reprisal; and, to talk with their employees about this policy on a regular basis. 

I want to reiterate that the vast majority of the Department’s workforce takes their public service responsibilities very seriously, and I admire and appreciate the work you do on behalf of all Americans.

Thank you for your personal commitment to creating a positive, respectful, and ethical workplace that upholds our values and mission.